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LEE TO MAKE FOUR-NATION TRIP TO LATIN AMERICA NEXT WEEK

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak will make a four-nation Latin American trip next week for a G20 summit in Mexico, a U.N. sustainable development conference in Brazil as well as bilateral visits to Chile and Colombia, the presidential office said Monday.

Lee plans to discuss with other world leaders tackling the eurozone fiscal crisis, coordination of macroeconomic policies, strengthening the international financial system, and other issues during the G20 summit set for June 18-19 in Mexico’s Los Cabos, the office said in a release.

Ahead of the leaders’ summit, Lee plans to attend a conference of about 100 top global business leaders, scheduled for June 17-18, and deliver a keynote speech about the roles governments and businesses should play to help overcome the global financial crisis and promote sustainable development, it said.

After Mexico, Lee will visit Brazil to attend the U.N. sustainable development conference on June 20. The meeting, known as “Rio+20 summit,” is expected to bring together government representatives from 186 countries, including 78 heads of state, the office said.

At the conference in Rio de Janeiro, Lee plans to make a pitch for “green growth” as a solution to pan-global challenges, such as the global economic crisis, the widening gap between rich and poor, climate change and the decline in biodiversity, the office said.

Green growth has been one of Lee’s trademark policies and calls for lessening South Korea’s dependence on fossil fuels and promoting the development of alternative energy sources, such as solar and wind power, and other technologies that increase energy efficiency.

Lee believes the strategy will provide South Korea with fresh growth engines for its economy and help the country — one of the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitters — reduce the emission of carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases amid growing calls to curb global warming.

Under the drive, South Korea established the think tank Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) last year to help develop strategies to promote the environment-friendly cause. GGGI has since opened a series of overseas offices, beginning with one in Denmark last year.

On the sidelines of the Rio+20 summit, representatives of South Korea and 14 other countries will sign a treaty that turns GGGI into an official international organization, with Lee and about 10 heads of state attending the signing ceremony. GGGI will become an international organization after the signatories ratify the treaty.

Lee will also attend the Denmark-organized Global Green Growth Forum on June 21, the office said.

During a three-day visit to Chile, Lee will hold a summit with President Sebastian Pinera on June 22 to talk mainly about expanding economic cooperation, especially in such areas as resources development, infrastructure construction, renewable energy and defense industry, the office said.

Also scheduled are a meeting with Chilean business leaders as well as a meeting with South Korean residents. The government of Santiago also plans to award Lee an honorary citizenship in recognition of his contributions to strengthening ties between Seoul and the Chilean capital when Lee served as Seoul mayor in 2002-2006.

Chile, which is rich in copper and other natural resources, is the first foreign nation that signed a free trade agreement with South Korea. This year marks the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations of the two countries.

On the last leg of the trip, Lee will make a state visit to Colombia on June 23-25.

Lee and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos will hold a summit on June 25 to discuss ways to deepen all-round cooperation, especially in areas, such as trade and investment, infrastructure construction and resources development, science and technology and development cooperation, the office said.

South Korea and Colombia have been in talks to forge a free trade agreement, and the upcoming trip by Lee is expected to provide the negotiations with important momentum, the office said.

Colombia is the only nation in Central and South America to send troops to help South Korea during the 1950-53 Korean War. During the visit, Lee plans to lay a wreath at a war memorial and hold a meeting with veterans and their families to thank their contributions to South Korea’s defense.

Lee will be the first South Korean president to visit Colombia. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the diplomatic relations between the two countries.